McEentee made this oil sketch of the Arch of Nero while hiking through Tivoli, near Rome, with his fellow artist Sanford Gifford (whose sketchbook from this excursion can be seen in the case below, acc. no. 17.141). They were following in the footsteps of other American painters, including Thomas Cole (1801–1848), who had sought inspiration from the ancient ruins dotting the Italian countryside. McEentee’s loose brushwork and scratch marks—he dragged an implement, probably the butt end of his paintbrush, through the paint to create wagon-wheel tracks in the road—give his sketch a sense of on-the-spot immediacy.
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